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Dancers with Dirty Feet


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Dancers with Dirty Feet is a low-key, nostalgic look at the work of 1960s African-American dancer Eleo Pomare and his influence on Jennifer Barry, Elizabeth Dalman and other South Australian dancers.

Barry hosts the evening and intersperses each dance piece with a snippet of background about her own career and what she gained from dancing with, and being choreographed by, Pomare.

One of the first dancers with the Adelaide-based Australian Dance Theatre, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary year, Barry was attracted to the new kind of dance introduced by company founder Dalman, who had been mentored by Pomare. It allowed her to dance barefoot and experiment with moves, instead of being forced to keep to the restrictive steps demanded in the rigid discipline of ballet.

In Dancers with Dirty Feet, five dancers perform excerpts of Eleo Pomare pieces. In early choreographic work Three Faces of Noon, the influence of ballet is still evident; the moves are graceful, flowing, often in unison and generally slow, while the costumes are long, feminine, apricot dresses.


Serendipity 66. Photo: Sofia Calado

Serendipity 66 is supposedly a satire of classical ballet but the excerpt chosen was essentially ballet for a trio in pale blue, classical Grecian dresses. Passage is the first real indication of modern dance as a breakaway movement as the musical stimulus is an electronic soundtrack and a solo dancer (Alexandra Knox) works her way along a shaft of light on the diagonal (here, there were signs of an opportunity for interpretation and imagination).

In the final live dance of the evening, Chimene Steele-Prior, who danced joyously in previous appearances, performs as Lady Macbeth in The Queen’s Chamber to the music of Bartok. Wearing a striking red dress,  she dances beautifully and manages to capture the anxiety, lust for power and grim satisfaction in the foul deed of murder.


Eleo Pomare, Cantos from a Monastery, 1956.

After a nostalgic evening, a lengthy black and white film of Pomare’s dance company performing Blues for the Jungle (1966) is screened: this is the first opportunity we have to see why he was regarded as a black activist and how his choreography supported the black movement. Some audience members had also danced with Pomare and seemed particularly appreciative of Barry’s commentary.

Dancers with Dirty Feet gives a taste of the origin of modern dance and will be of particular interest to people interested in dance history – especially those who know of the works of Eleo Pomare.

Jennifer Barry and Pomare Productions are presenting Dancers with Dirty Feet at the Odeon Theatre, Norwood, until October 10.

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